- 16 Sep 2000
- Sydney 2000
Thorpe leads Australia's guitar heroes to relay gold
The men's 4x100m freestyle swimming relay developed into a drama-packed battle between Australia and the USA.
The Americans had won this event every time it had featured at the Games. On the other, the host nation had put together a formidable team and had beaten their American counterparts the last time the two went head-to-head.
The temperature was raised in the run-up to the race by the American swimmer Gary Hall, who didn't just predict victory for his team but said, in a curious turn of phrase, that the Australians would be “smashed like guitars”. It was probably meant as a light-hearted comment but the home supporters took it to heart, producing a cacophony of noise as the swimmers came to the poolside.
The initial advantage went to Australia thanks to Michael Klim's world record-breaking first leg, but the USA’s Antony Ervin was not far behind and the following two legs produced the same outcome, with the Australian swimmers holding a narrow advantage, but the Americans coming back at them again and again. At the final changeover, it was almost neck-and-neck.
The contest came down to a 100m race between the last two swimmers. The USA had the confident Hall while Australia called upon Ian Thorpe, the new hero of Australian swimming.
Hall overtook his teenage rival on the first lap and appeared to have opened up a significant advantage. He turned at about 0.6 seconds in the lead and set about his 50m dash home. Thorpe, though, began to surge forward. With around 20m left he brought himself level with Hall and then moved ahead with each of his final six strokes. He touched the wall in 3 minutes 13.67 seconds, well over a second inside the world record and just 0.19 seconds clear of Hall. It was a narrow, but truly spectacular, victory.